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The Gin Game

Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Funny, Delightful, Absorbing
79
Critics
75
40 reviews
Members
80
202 reviews
 

Tony winners James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson return to Broadway in this Pulitzer winner about strangers who become friends over gin rummy, until their games become a battleground of exposed failures and insecurities.

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This Pulitzer Prize-winning play follows Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey, two residents at a nursing home for senior citizens, who strike up a friendship over games of gin rummy. As their competitive spirit grows, each of their lengthy conversations about their families and their lives becomes a battle. Much like the ongoing gin games, each player tries to expose the other's weaknesses, to belittle the other's life, and to humiliate the other thoroughly. James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson come together on stage for the first time since 1966 in this revival.

 



Reviews (242)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
75
Avg Score

85
The New York Times

"Despite its comic overtones, 'The Gin Game' presents a clarifying portrait of the loneliness that may come with age, and the difficulties of forging a relationship when our personalities have quite naturally become calcified by experience. As the moving performances of Mr. Jones and Ms. Tyson bear out, playing the hands we are dealt with equanimity is much easier when we are still sure that there will be many more hands to play." Full Review

90
Theatermania

"Critics have contended that 'The Gin Game' is a gimmick that relies too much on such memorably starry performances. The acting really is magnificent but Leonard Foglia's smart direction helps to draw out Coburn's underlying themes, proving this play to be much more than a mere card trick...'The Gin Game' is a not-to-be-missed theatrical event, not just for the opportunity to witness two living legends at work, but to see them put their craft toward a story that really matters in 2015 America." Full Review

80
BroadwayWorld

"If 'The Gin Game' is a little thin on plot to fill out its two acts, it serves splendidly as a star vehicle for beloved senior actors. There's nothing unexpected about the performances of Tyson and Jones, but they play their hands beautifully and when the script calls for them to hesitantly hold each other in a slow dance, there's not an unmelted heart in the house." Full Review

70
Variety

"It’s true what they say about bona fide stars like Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones — they could indeed hold us spellbound simply by reading the New York telephone book. Not that 'The Gin Game' is as insubstantial as the contents of the phone book. But despite having won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, this two-hander really is a slip of a thing, elevated to dramatic art by captivating Broadway performances from two of the most enchanting actors you’d ever hope to see on the same stage." Full Review

60
Time Out New York

"D.L. Coburn’s play was a hit in 1976, but it’s thin as a needle, with a sharp point at the end on which its poignancy relies. Leonard Foglia’s revival lacks that sense of purpose in its shape. The age of the actors perhaps makes them slower and cuter than might be ideal; the result is likable but shambling. In gin, after all, having a king and queen in your hand is not enough to win; they need to be built into a sequence. That sense of order is not in these cards." Full Review

35
New York Magazine / Vulture

"Whether Jones and Tyson are having memorization problems I cannot say, but the production is so lame and misguided (by the director Leonard Foglia) you would almost prefer that they suddenly started ad libbing selections from far better work each of them has done. As it is, they stick at least to the outlines of the script." Full Review

60
The Guardian (UK)

"'The Gin Game' is not a very good play. It may have won the Pulitzer Prize, but it as creaky as the dilapidated assisted living facility in which it is set. Yet when actors as fine as James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson are interested, producers beg to be dealt in...Coburn’s view of human life is condescending and dyspeptic. He finds it for the most part, nasty, brutish and long. Bitter stuff. But these actors, even before the wide and irrepressible smiles they unfurl at the curtain call, make... Full Review

85
DC Theatre Scene

"The two characters in 'The Gin Game' do little more than play card games and, once, (spoiler alert) dance. But they’re portrayed by James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson – with some 130 years of acting experience between them – and that’s enough to turn this Broadway revival into a stellar outing at the theater." Full Review

65
Lighting & Sound America

"Jones and Tyson are giving such confident, entertaining performances, not until very late does it becomes apparent that they are not really playing 'The Gin Game...' The big question is if audiences will be sufficiently amused by the graveside vaudeville of Leonard Foglia's production to forgive the fact that it falls apart in the final scene...There is a much more mordant play lurking inside, one that brings its character to a stunningly bleak conclusion." Full Review

85
The Huffington Post

"Comedy may not all be in the timing, but a large part of it is and James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson give an acting master class in it in a delightful revival of 'The Gin Game...' In the hands of Jones and Tyson, they are simply lost, lonely souls for whom one ends up feeling great sympathy and kinship and wish you could see every Visitor's Day at that old-folks home." Full Review

85
Theatre's Leiter Side

"Despite it being obvious that Weller and Fonsia need each other, Mr. Coburn finds obstacles to their realizing this; his plotline may be thin, his material may seem repetitive, he could trim the running time a bit, and his ending isn’t satisfactory, but the playwright’s skill at keeping the dramatic ball in the air as the characters work out their issues keeps the audience sharply focused over the course of two acts and nearly two hours. Like it or not, that alone makes a visit worthwhile." Full Review

65
The Hollywood Reporter

"D.L. Coburn's two-hander is so slight it might almost evaporate as it's unfolding...What keeps the slender piece engaging is the delicate dance between Jones and Tyson...Foglia leans heavily on the humor, perhaps dimming some of the more emotionally affecting notes and making the shift into sobering home truths and self-recriminations somewhat abrupt. But there's no denying the crowdpleasing pleasure of watching these two masterful actors." Full Review

65
The Wall Street Journal

"Light on tragedy and heavy on comedy—at least in this version—it’s an infallible vehicle for two aging stars who can lay on the charm...Unfortunately, Leonard Foglia, the director, seems not to understand that there’s more to 'The Gin Game' than jokes...The results are hard to resist, but too soft-edged to bring true tears." Full Review

75
AM New York

"'The Gin Game' is a nice little play about an unlikely friendship, and Leonard Foglia's revival is generally pleasant. Showing strong chemistry, Jones and Tyson make fine sparring partners. With pitch-perfect delivery, Jones digs into every line with fervor, booming bombast and an endearingly cranky spirit, while Tyson has a warm presence and navigates her character's dramatic moments with aplomb." Full Review

75
The Huffington Post

"If you think you're about to hear anything critical of the two old pros James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, you better think again. They're well nigh perfect...The play is no worse for wear. Whether it was ever a flawless piece of writing is less certain...By the time the second act ends, it's become too much a repetition of the first." Full Review

70
Talkin' Broadway

"The magic of people like Jones and Tyson comes from their ability to keep your gaze on them even when little else around them does. Even if the rest of 'The Gin Game' stalls, at delivering that essential theatrical element, Jones and Tyson are an unvarnished success." Full Review

85
New York Daily News

"Under Leonard Foglia’s direction, Tyson and Jones hit all the right notes of charming, amusing, ornery and scary. Along the way Jones and Tyson hold you, like the cards, in the palm of their hands." Full Review

70
Deadline

"Under Leonard Foglia’s sensitive direction, the actors give their all to an almost-good play...Jones is more tentative here than usual, more halting in his speeches, more brittle than we expect Weller to be. Several exchanges faltered because of that, losing the snap necessary, and as a result, the play seemed even more schematic and predictable than I’d remembered. Still, there’s great pleasure in seeing these two masters duking it out over a card table. Call it a straight flush, if not qui... Full Review

60
CurtainUp

"The play hasn't aged all that well. The reliance on the repeated gin games to serves as a sort of onion to peel away the players' true personalities and situations with each deal has always been somewhat too schematic. And it seems more so than ever...Too bad that Leonard Foglia couldn't have brought it all in closer to the movie's 87 minutes." Full Review

70
Newsday

"Coburn's slim, deceptively lightweight duet is so hard to wrestle into submission that, in my experience, only the originals - the married team of Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn - turned the leisurely and schematic showcase into a profound meeting of wills and even of magic. The partnership of Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones comes very close...Directed with leisurely sensitivity by Leonard Foglia, the production lets the balance of powers shift and flow." Full Review

80
The Associated Press

"One thing you should probably not bet against is the little old lady onstage who seems to have supernatural luck with cards. Another is the two-person cast, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson — actors still performing at the highest level despite their combined age of 174. You might wonder if there's something supernatural at work there, too...Handsome and beautifully acted revival." Full Review

65
The Wrap

"In the case of 'The Gin Game,' did Leonard Foglia just stay out of the way and let two pros go at it? Whatever, it works. What doesn’t work (except as an excuse to watch two pros go at it) is Coburn’s play. Since Tyson’s continual winning at cards can’t sustain one act, much less two, Coburn introduces some family conflicts that are more forced than a reality TV script." Full Review

70
NorthJersey.com

"The great pleasure in the revival of D.L. Coburn’s 1977 two-hander is watching the veteran performers work together with warmth and humor, not missing a beat...The play’s ending, with Weller’s burst of colossal rage and Fonsia’s retreat into loneliness, has always been unsatisfying. In this production, it’s just more so. But that frustration is easily trumped by the production’s great gift of allowing us to see Jones and Tyson perform together." Full Review

75
WNBC

"Lonesome and raw revival...Jones and Tyson, it will surprise no one, make for lively sparring partners...'The Gin Game,' it turns out, has little to do with cards. Rather, it examines the narratives we fabricate in order to tolerate the relentless sadness that piles up with passing decades." Full Review

80
NY1

"It’s not exactly a great play but author D.L. Coburn did pen a couple of great roles. I'm happy to report the revival has yet another pair of aces up its sleeve...What makes 'Gin Game' such a treat is watching these two consummate veterans deliver incredibly calibrated performances in what must be a very difficult play for actors of any age...I cannot say enough about Jones and Tyson. Despite their advanced age, on the big stage, they are eternally young!" Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
80
Avg Score

69
Funny, Great acting, Slow, Dated

See it if want to see two great actors.

Don't see it if you won't, it closed.

80
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Dated

See it if You want to see 2 legendary actors go toe-to-toe for 2 acts in a charming (if a bit repetitive) play.

Don't see it if You don't value acting legends.

55
Banal, Disappointing, Insipid, Slow, Tyson's a wonder

See it if you want to see the dazzling Tyson, altho the material is far beneath her. This is a stupid play. And Jones didn't improve it.

Don't see it if I was bored and frustrated. JEJ plays a bully. Nothing funny or charming or revelatory here. So disappointing. Why revive this clunker???

74
Delightful, Great acting, Masterful, Overrated, Slow

See it if You love James Earl Jones and his deep voice.

Don't see it if Two actor plays are not your favorite

50
Great acting, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid, Overrated

See it if You want to see two amazing actors in a interesting and simple play.

Don't see it if you want the story to have purpose.

79
Delightful, Great acting, Overrated, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy plays that very much depend upon the expertise of the actors, as the writing itself is quite slight

Don't see it if you want fast action, and know that you might want to smack some sense into both characters for being their own worst enemies

65
Great acting, Slow, Disappointing script

See it if like me, you just wanted to see any play with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson .

Don't see it if you trust your friends who saw it and told you the script was terrible

84
Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if An honor to be in the theater with James and Cicely.

Don't see it if You don't like dialogue only plays.

88
Funny, Enchanting, Great acting

See it if Classic show, Classic stars!

Don't see it if Shorter 2 person narrative shows... not tons of plot.

95
Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Riveting, Hilarious

See it if you enjoy masterful performances and are prepared to laugh. From start to finish I was enchanted by Tyson and Jones.

Don't see it if you are looking for grand theatre, or are uncomfortable with explorations of the aging, and their lives.

70
Dated

See it if You want to see legends James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson on stage together.

Don't see it if want a story with real substance. The talents of James Earl Jones & Cicely Tyson really were wasted here.

92
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You want to see two great actors command the stage. James Earl Jones is masterful

Don't see it if You are looking for a light musical

70
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if Great acting, Cicely Tyson was incandescent.

Don't see it if Not a great play, just a nice excuse to spend an evening with the masters.

76
Ambitious, Disappointing, Insipid, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like the actors.

Don't see it if You don't like a slow pace.

90
Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Romantic

See it if You want to see two of the best actors of the 20th and 21st centuries. Tender story that tugs at your heart strings and makes you think.

Don't see it if If you prefer musicals and have a hard time sitting through a show based only on the relationship of two characters.

65
Disappointing

See it if you want to see James Earl Jones act onstage

Don't see it if you want a fast-paced comedy. This show is neither.

75
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Dated

See it if you want to see two classic stage actors in their later years kill it on stage together!

Don't see it if foul language bothers you; you're a racist; the thought of living in an old age home in the deep south is depressing to you.

50
Great acting, Slow, Dated

See it if you want to see two of the acting greats onstage.

Don't see it if you need plot and likable characters or if you're bored by long shows.

51
Great acting

See it if you've ever wanted to be in the same room as James Earl Jones & Cicely Tyson.

Don't see it if just talking no action doesn't sound enjoyable.

88
Funny, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if if you want to see two legends of the American Theatre perform one of the most witty, sharp and poignant plays around.

Don't see it if you've seen this production already.

83
Funny, Original, Great acting, Slow, Dated

See it if You like to see older actors at the top of their form.

Don't see it if You don't like small plays without much in the way of a plot.

65
Great acting, Slow

See it if You want to see two veteran actors on stage.

Don't see it if You want a fast paced show, this one dragged a bit.

60
Make it stop

See it if You really want to see Cicely Tyson or James Earl Jones live... They are both super talented but the story crawls.

Don't see it if You are looking for engaging plot or to be moved. A 90 minute lookyloo at big celebrities is the only draw here

77
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Profound, Resonant

See it if you want to see two legends together onstage.

Don't see it if you don't like wordy minimalistic shows

73
Original, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if You enjoy plays with a small cast, especially with terrific acting!

Don't see it if You want a fast-moving plot.